Imran Khan's party accuses authorities of denying access to him
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is leading the PTI in the absence of Khan, in a video message urged workers to take to the streets but remain peaceful
Imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party on Sunday accused authorities of denying his legal team access to the leader to get his signatures on essential documents for court purposes.
Khan, 70, was arrested from his Zaman Park home in Lahore on Saturday shortly after an Islamabad trial court found him guilty of “corrupt practices” in the Toshakhana corruption case and sentenced him to three-year imprisonment.
Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party, is lodged in the Attock Jail after being sentenced for concealing the sale of state gifts. The case was adjudicated by a sessions court in Islamabad.
The PTI in a statement shared on a WhatsApp group termed Khan's arrest as an “abduction”.
“Chairman's legal team is not being given access to him for getting legal documents signed, as per the prerequisite, despite appeals made to Superintendent Attock Prison & Additional Home Secretary Punjab,” it said.
“This doesn't sound like an arrest at all, it sounds like an abduction.” Khan was arrested from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore and taken by road to Attock City, the last major town of Punjab on the boundary with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
PTI has a strong following among the expats and protests by them in the major Western capitals may pressure the government, but it will take time.
Initially, it was expected that he would be kept in the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, but, for security reasons, he was taken to Attock.
His arrest failed to bring crowds of supporters on the streets, a stark contrast with his arrest on May 9 when thousands of them came out to protest against the detention.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is leading the PTI in the absence of Khan, in a video message urged workers to take to the streets but remain peaceful.
“Peaceful protest is our right but no state asset is to be damaged. Don’t take the law in your hands,” he cautioned.
A similar message was given by Khan in a pre-recorded clip which was run by the party on social media platforms, but the supporters' response was not electric.
The primary reason for the lukewarm response is that the party has considerably shrivelled after the May 9 violence that saw organised attacks on military installations and other state properties.
Several top leaders left or were forced to quit the party when arrested after the protest.
Qureshi has called a meeting of the core committee of PTI to chalk out a strategy to tackle the conviction of Khan but his choices are limited.
Already losing the patronage of the establishment, its mainstay is any support from the judiciary or Pakistanis living abroad.
Many believe that the decision by the sessions court was given in a hurry as an appeal against its decision to disallow witnesses is still pending in the Islamabad High Court.
Second, the court decided the issue of the maintainability of the case without hearing PTI lawyers, who were absent.
Khan can challenge the verdict in the high court and then its outcome in the Supreme Court, where the session court’ verdict may face a strong challenge on both legal and technical grounds.
Published: 06 Aug 2023, 1:20 PM