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Pakistan court allows Imran Khan’s party leaders to hold election meetings with him in jail

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The Islamabad High Court on Friday granted leaders and lawyers of Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan’s party to visit him at Adiala Jail and hold election strategy meetings in the run-up to the February 8 polls.

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan. (Reuters/File)
Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan. (Reuters/File)

The order was passed by Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb on a petition filed by Khan seeking permission to hold meetings with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party members Asad Qaiser, Junaid Akbar Khan, senators Aurangzeb Khan and Dost Mohammad Khan and Ishtiaq Meherban among others to strategise ahead of the elections.

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The plea filed by the 71-year-old cricketer-turned-politician also requested the court to instruct the superintendent of Adiala Jail to ensure privacy for Khan during his consultations with his legal team.

During Friday’s hearing, Attorney-General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan, lawyers of Khan’s party and the Adiala Jail superintendent appeared in the IHC.

PTI counsel Shoaib Shaheen said the party needed to hold discussions for the allotment of 700 tickets while the AGP raised objections to the maintainability of the plea.

Justice Aurangzeb expressed displeasure at Awan’s arguments and asked: “Is the additional note from the Supreme Court insufficient for you? Do you want me to write a note against you as well?”

He passed these remarks in reference to Justice Athar Minallah’s additional note in the cipher case against Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The cipher case is related to the alleged mishandling of a diplomatic document sent by the Pakistan embassy in March last year. The Federal Investigation Agency filed a case on August 15 that the accused violated the secret laws of the country while trying to exploit the cable for political purposes.

Both Khan and Qureshi were given bail by the Supreme Court in the cipher case.

In his note, the Supreme Court judge had highlighted that it was the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the government’s duty to ensure that the public was facilitated in expressing its will through a “genuine election”, adding that it was also bound to ensure that there was no perception of oppression or repression against one political party while others were treated favourably.

Mentioning these remarks, Justice Aurangzeb said the AGP and advocate general were representing the caretaker government and should therefore be impartial.

“A terrible system is being run under the interim government where even consultation on elections is not allowed,” he remarked, asking if the caretakers wanted to “derail the polls”.

Subsequently, the court allowed PTI lawyers, including Chairman Gohar Khan, to hold consultations with Khan in jail. The court also passed orders for a meeting between Gohar and the ex-premier to be held under the supervision of the jail superintendent.

“Permission for consultations on polls is a fundamental right,” Justice Aurangzeb said, stressing that the caretaker government should be “neutral” during elections.

“Opposing meetings between the PTI chairman and Imran (Khan) raises questions on the neutrality of the interim set-up,” the judge added and disposed of the petition.

Talking to reporters, a PTI lawyer said the caretakers “are actually chair takers and everyone can see on whose orders they are functioning”.

“They all have a problem with the fact that Imran Khan and the nation are on one page. Today, the public is standing with Imran Khan,” he asserted, adding that the ECP and elite political parties were seeing their defeat.

Khan was ousted through a vote of no-confidence in April 2022. More than 150 cases have been registered against him since his ouster from power.

With the release of the poll schedule, election-related activities have begun inside the camps of major political parties. The election programme is fully underway with the deadline for filing nomination papers over on Sunday. The returning officers will examine the nomination papers from December 25 to December 30.

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