A three-member Bench of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial extended relief to PTI Chairman Khan by terming his arrest on the premises of Islamabad High Court invalid and lawful, thus ordering his release. The court said it took up Khan’s case since the right to access to justice was denied and the sanctity and safety of the court were violated. The court said the entire process needed to be backtracked since a citizen enjoyed certain guarantees, particularly access to justice, on the court premises.
Indeed the way the former Prime Minister was arrested from the court premises carries no justification. The optics certainly was horrible. Leaders of the ruling coalition however have come out with a strong reaction over the court’s decision and termed it “a part of judiciary’s dual standard”. They might have some genuine concerns, however, in our view, the relief provided to the PTI Chairman is neither surprising nor it was the first time that such a course was adopted. The apex court has previously, in cases including that of Ali Moosa Gilani, declared a person’s arrest from the court’s premises to be illegal. In Gilani’s case, the court deprecated the accused’s arrest after he had been arrested from the court’s entrance while approaching it to seek pre-arrest bail. This view is consistent with the principle that a person cannot be penalized for surrendering himself to the law. Having said so, the violence on the arrest of any leader is also not justifiable and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. The way a handful of PTI workers ransacked and vandalized the public and private prosperities, especially the corps commander residence in Lahore is something which should not be pardoned. Those plotted and carried out the attack should be identified and taken to task as per the law. Justice Minallah who was part of the bench hearing Khan’s plea also stated that the law will take its own course against those who had caused huge damage to the image of the country. Indeed this should happen to avoid such horrific and deplorable occurrences in future. It was also good to see President Arif Alvi for coming forward and strongly denouncing the violent acts stating that the protest though a constitutional right of every citizen needed to be made within the bounds of law. It is also for the PTI Chairman to publicly distance himself from these violent incidents. He should not only condemn them but also extort the workers to remain peaceful, no matter what the situation. Khan should not have worries in facing the cases and must demonstrate his trust on the judiciary which has provided him the relief. Given the current difficult situation and multidimensional challenges faced by the country, the PTI Chairman must also pay heed to the advice of honourable CJP for dialogue with his political opponents. The ball is now in Khan’s court to initiate dialogue process and show seriousness towards it. Whilst rising above the egoistic and hate-based politics, flexibility will have to be demonstrated both by the coalition government and the PTI to take the country towards political stability which is the only panacea of all our problems. The political leadership need to demonstrate that regardless of their differences, they can address their issues by sitting together. This process of attacking the institutions for the sake of petty political interests must also come to an end.