Ex-PM Khan’s arrest warrants cancelled amid clashes outside Islamabad’s Judicial Complex

Supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan run for cover after police fire tear gas shell to disperse them during clashes, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, March 18, 2023. (Photo courtesy: AP)
Short Url
Updated 18 March 2023

Ex-PM Khan’s arrest warrants cancelled amid clashes outside Islamabad’s Judicial Complex

  • Khan faces charges of unlawfully selling state gifts given to him by foreign leaders while in office
  • Islamabad police claim nine of its officials sustained injuries in clashes with Khan’s supporters

ISLAMABAD: A district court in Islamabad on Saturday cancelled the arrest warrants of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a case involving the sale of state gifts, after he marked his attendance outside the Judicial Complex in Islamabad.

Khan was scheduled to be indicted in the case, commonly known as the Toshakhana reference, but the court had to adjourn the proceedings after clashes broke out between his supporters and law enforcement personnel outside the complex.

The district judge, Zafar Iqbal, allowed Khan to go back after signing the attendance roll since the ex-PM could not move to the courtroom amid intense teargas shelling by the police and stone pelting by his supporters.

Khan remained seated in his bulletproof vehicle that was parked at the entrance of the Judicial Complex while hundreds of his supporters also managed to reach the area after breaking the security cordon.

“Ask Imran Khan, there is no need for stone pelting or anything else. Sign [the attendance roll] and leave,” the judge directed his judicial staff at a time when it was becoming difficult to breathe in the courtroom due to intense teargas shelling outside.

“The hearing and appearance [of Khan] cannot take place in this situation,” he continued before adjourning the hearing until March 30.

The court previously issued Khan’s arrest warrants in the case after he failed to attend its hearings.

The judge rejected Khan’s exemption from the next hearing and ordered him to appear in person to join the proceedings while responding to a request from his legal team.

Reacting to the development, the country’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah said Khan had been enjoying “extraordinary relief” from courts.

“A lot of people who were trying to invade the Judicial Complex in Islamabad today were armed as shown in videos, which were mostly shot by media personnel, so there is no doubt that they were armed,” he added.

The government banned public gatherings in Islamabad and adjoining Rawalpindi city ahead of Khan’s appearance in the court and sealed the Judicial Complex with shipping containers to stop the entry of PTI supporters there.

About 4,000 security officials of Islamabad and Punjab Police, Frontier Constabulary, and Rangers were also deployed in and around the complex when Khan’s convoy arrived from his residence in Lahore to the Pakistani capital.

The security personnel were armed with teargas shells, paintball guns, batons, and zip cuffs to deal with the PTI supporters. Prison vans and ambulances were also deployed outside the complex building.

Media and law enforcement personnel were present in the area since morning where a large crowd of Khan’s supporters later arrived with his motorcade and started pelting stones at the police.

The charged crowd chanted slogans in Khan’s favor and managed to enter the premises by repelling the law enforcement personnel wearing the riot gear. The police kept firing teargas shells on the crowd, including women, intermittently but failed to disperse them.

Some PTI supporters and police personnel also sustained injuries during the clashes.

The Islamabad Police claimed in a statement that as many as nine police personnel were injured while the mob set over 25 motorbikes on fire.

Khan has been leading nationwide protests since his ouster from power in April last year. He has been pressing his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to call early national elections that are otherwise scheduled to be held later this year.

Pakistan, India among countries who increased nuclear warheads in 2022 — study

Updated 29 March 2023

Pakistan, India among countries who increased nuclear warheads in 2022 — study

  • Official and unofficial world powers hold 9,576 nuclear warheads today, says latest study
  • Study attributes additional 136 warheads to Pakistan, India, Russia, North Korea and China

OSLO: The global number of operational atomic warheads increased in 2022, driven largely by Russia and China, a new report out Wednesday said as nuclear tensions have risen since the war in Ukraine.

The nine official and unofficial nuclear powers held 9,576 ready-to-use warheads in 2023 -- up from 9,440 the previous year, according to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor published by the NGO Norwegian People's Aid.

Those weapons have a "collective destructive power" equal to "more than 135,000 Hiroshima bombs," the report said.

Conducted in collaboration with the Federation of American Scientists, the study is published as Moscow has repeatedly raised the nuclear threat in connection to its invasion of Ukraine and Western military aid for the Eastern European country.

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he had agreed with Minsk to deploy "tactical" nuclear weapons in Belarus, a country on the EU's doorstep.

"The United States has been doing this for decades. They have long placed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allies," Putin said in a televised interview.

According to estimates by various independent observers, the United States has deployed about 100 so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons -- referring to their shorter range or lesser power -- in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey over the years.

Russia's announcement was roundly criticised by Ukraine and its Western allies, with NATO denouncing it as "dangerous and irresponsible" and the EU threatening Minsk with further sanctions if the deployment went ahead.

The additional 136 warheads on the ready-to-use global nuclear stockpile last year were attributed to Russia, which has the world's largest arsenal with 5,889 operational warheads, as well as China, India, North Korea and Pakistan.

"This increase is worrying, and continues a trend that started in 2017," said Grethe Lauglo Ostern, editor of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor.

Away from the spotlight of the conflict in Ukraine, North Korea has been conducting tests with ballistic missiles, which could increase its capacity to carry out nuclear strikes.

In the highly tense geopolitical situation, fears that these devastating weapons will be used are now at their highest levels since the end of the Cold War, according to opinion polls in several countries.

At the same time, the total stockpile of nuclear weapons, which also includes those removed from service, continues to decline.

In 2022, the overall number of nuclear weapons fell from 12,705 to 12,512.

"This is only still true because Russia and the United States each year dismantle a small number of their older nuclear warheads that have been retired from service," said Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.

Ostern warned that if the trend of new warheads being added does not stop, "the total number of nuclear weapons in the world will also soon increase again for the first time since the Cold War."

At the peak in 1986, there were over 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The eight official nuclear powers are the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, North Korea and Pakistan, while Israel is known to have nuclear weapons unofficially.

Second Pakistan Navy ship carrying relief goods arrives in quake-ravaged Syria

Updated 29 March 2023

Second Pakistan Navy ship carrying relief goods arrives in quake-ravaged Syria

  • Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Syria's Latakia city with warm clothes, blankets and rations
  • A 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed over 7,000 in Syria, over 45,000 in Turkiye last month

ISLAMABAD: A second Pakistan Navy ship carrying relief goods for victims of a devastating earthquake that killed over 7,000 people in Syria last month, arrived in the Syrian city of Latakia, Pakistan's naval forces confirmed on Wednesday.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake on February 6 struck parts of Syria and Turkiye, killing over 50,000 people in both countries and razing hundreds of structures to the ground, officials say.

In Syria, the disaster added to the misery of people suffering from the consequences of 12 years of civil war, with more than 4 million people already relying on aid before the earthquake struck. Pakistan has been actively sending ships and planeloads of relief items for earthquake victims in Turkiye and Syria.

The first Pakistan Navy Ship, NASR, had arrived in Syria on March 13 with 700 tons of relief items.

“The Second Pakistan Navy Ship, MOAWIN, deployed on international Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) mission reached Lattakia, Syria,” Pakistan Navy said in a statement.

The ship brought a second consignment of relief goods comprising warm clothes, blankets, and rations for Syria's earthquake victims, it added.

“During interaction with mission commander onboard PNS MOAWIN, Governor of Lattakia expressed gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and Pakistan Navy for providing exceptional support during the time of need,” it said.

“The ongoing HADR mission by PN ships is a manifestation of PN resolve of continuing all-out efforts to support the people of brotherly countries of Syria and Türkiye in line with the policies of the Government of Pakistan,” the statement added.

Pakistan's National Assembly passes bill to clip chief justice's powers

Updated 29 March 2023

Pakistan's National Assembly passes bill to clip chief justice's powers

  • Bill proposes a three-member committee of senior-most judges take up all suo motu matters
  • ECP says ready to hold polls in Punjab, KP if required funds, security personnel are provided

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's National Assembly passed a bill on Wednesday to clip the powers of the country's top judge, preventing him from taking suo motu notices in an individual capacity on issues of fundamental rights and constitute benches for various cases. 

Seeking amendments to the existing law, the bill was tabled by Pakistan's Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar on Tuesday after two Supreme Court judges, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, wrote in a dissenting note that the office of the chief justice enjoyed "unbridled powers." The judges also said the chief justice's "one-man show" in the judiciary needed to be revisited.  


The development also takes place at a time when all eyes are on the Supreme Court of Pakistan, as it hears a petition filed by former prime minister Imran Khan's political party challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision to delay polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab provinces to October 8. 

The bill, titled 'The Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023', would become law once it is also passed by the Senate—the upper house of Pakistan's bicameral parliament—and receives the president's formal approval. 

A copy of the bill seen by Arab News says that a three-member committee, comprising the chief justice and two of the most senior judges of the apex court, would constitute a bench that would have the power to hear and dispose off a cause, matter or appeal. The decisions of the committee would be made by majority, it added. 

Regarding the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, the bill says any matter invoking the use of Article 184 (3) [referring to suo motu notices] would first be placed before the committee. In suo-motu cases, the court would itself take cognizance of the matter and initiate proceedings instead of the parties presenting a case or controversy to its attention.

“If the committee is of the view that a question of public importance with reference to enforcement of any of the fundamental rights... is involved, it shall constitute a bench comprising not less than three judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan which may also include the members of the committee, for adjudication of the matter,” the bill reads.

The bill grants the right to appeal in suo motu cases, with the appeals to be fixed before the court within a period not exceeding 14 days.

Speaking on the floor of the house, Tarar said it was the assembly's right to legislate on issues of public importance, adding that all six bar councils across Pakistan have lauded the bill.

“There is no need for a constitutional amendment [to regulate powers of the office of chief justice],” he pointed out, adding that the Supreme Court has been making its rules as per the constitution and law since 1980.

Meanwhile, the apex court adjourned a hearing on the petition filed by Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on the delay in polls in KP and Punjab, till tomorrow, Thursday.

ECP's lawyer Sajeel Swati assured the court during the hearing that the ECP was prepared to hold elections if it is provided with the required funds and security personnel to do so. 

Swati informed the court that Pakistan's intelligence agencies provided the commission secret reports of the presence of militant outfits in parts of KP and Punjab, adding that the ECP faces a shortage of 297,000 security personnel to conduct polls peacefully.

He said the finance ministry had also declined to release the required funds during the current financial year that were required to hold the polls.

In response, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that Pakistan had been facing "terrorism" for the past 20 years yet elections were still held in the country. 

The chief justice directed the ECP lawyer to appear again on Thursday with "full preparation" and ordered Pakistan's attorney-general to consult the interior and defense ministers on the minimum time the government required for elections.

Khan, who was ousted in a vote of confidence in April last year, has rejected the election commission's decision to delay the polls. The cricketer-turned-politician says the move is a larger plot to delay polls as the incumbent government is afraid of his rising popularity, which he says has helped him win a string of by-elections in the past couple of months.

Maryland court reinstates murder conviction of Pakistani-American Adnan Syed, subject of ‘Serial’ podcast

Updated 29 March 2023

Maryland court reinstates murder conviction of Pakistani-American Adnan Syed, subject of ‘Serial’ podcast

  • Syed was found guilty of the 1999 killing of his former girlfriend in a case that drew attention after the podcast “Serial” raised doubts about his guilt
  • After an investigation identified problems with the case, a circuit court judge last year vacated Syed’s conviction and ordered his release

March 28 : A Maryland appeals court on Tuesday reinstated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, who was found guilty of the 1999 killing of his former girlfriend in a case that drew attention after the podcast “Serial” raised doubts about his guilt. 

After an investigation identified problems with the case, a circuit court judge last year vacated Syed’s conviction in the murder of Hae Min Lee and ordered his release. He had served more than 20 years in prison.

The judge left it to prosecutors to decide whether to retry him and they decided to drop the case.

On Tuesday, a Maryland appellate court panel, in a 2-1 decision, ordered a new hearing into the matter, saying the lower court had violated the right of the victim’s family to attend a critical hearing in the case.

“This Court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Mr. Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy,” the panel said in its ruling.

“Accordingly, we vacate the circuit court’s order vacating Mr. Syed’s convictions, which results in the reinstatement of the original convictions and sentence,” it said.

The panel did not specifically order Syed back to prison, but allowed for a two-month delay in the “mandate” of its decision to allow the parties “time to assess how to proceed.”

Syed has maintained he was innocent and did not kill Hae Min Lee, who was 18 when she was strangled and buried in a Baltimore park. The podcast “Serial,” produced by Chicago public radio station WBEZ, drew national attention to the case in 2014.

An attorney for Syed said he remains free and the latest decision was not about Syed’s innocence but more about proceedings. The attorney said Syed’s team will seek a review in the Supreme Court of Maryland.

“The Appellate Court of Maryland has reinstated Adnan’s convictions, not because the Motion to Vacate was erroneous, but because Ms Lee’s brother did not appear in person at the vacatur hearing,” Erica Suter, Syed’s counsel, told Reuters.

“There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon.”

Prosecutors filed a motion last September to vacate the conviction after conducting a yearlong investigation alongside a public defender representing Syed.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn subsequently ordered Syed to be released from prison, where he was serving a life sentence. 

Legal noose tightens around ex-Pakistani PM as another non-bailable arrest warrant issued

Updated 29 March 2023

Legal noose tightens around ex-Pakistani PM as another non-bailable arrest warrant issued

  • Khan has become embroiled in more than 100 legal cases, including one for ‘terrorizing’ a woman judge
  • A court has ordered the authorities to produce the ex-PM before it on April 18 after his continuous absence

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Wednesday rejected the exemption plea of former prime minister Imran Khan in a case in which he is accused of threatening a woman judge while issuing non-bailable arrest warrants to ensure his court appearance on April 18, reported the local media.

Khan was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last year in April. Since then, the 70-year-old politician has become embroiled in more than 100 cases against him, including one for “terrorizing” Judge Zeba Chaudhry for remanding his aide, Dr. Shehbaz Gill, in police custody.

The Islamabad police registered the case against Khan under the Anti-Terrorism Act for telling a public rally last August that he would “take action” against Chaudhry. Khan was summoned by the court in the case for the first time on October 1, after which he managed to secure a bail. His requests for exemption from attending the case were approved by the court on January 24, January 26, February 9, and March 13. The case has adjourned 12 times until now, but Khan has not made a court appearance to face the charges even once.

“An Islamabad court on Wednesday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] Chairman Imran Khan in a case related to alleged threats made to a judge and directed the authorities to present him before the court on April 18,” Dawn newspaper reported.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Khan’s lawyers requested the court to retain his bailable arrest warrant, citing security threats to his client’s life. The court, however, decided to issue non-bailable warrants due to the ex-premier’s continuous absence.

“Multiple immunity pleas and non-appearance mean Imran Khan doesn’t want to face trial,” the court said.

Khan is also facing other legal cases on charges of sedition, incitement to violence and graft while he was in the office.