LHC judge recuses from hearing Imran’s plea for ‘personal reasons’

Justice Ali Zia Bajwa sends petition to LHC CJ for fixing before any other bench for hearing

Justice Ali Zia Bajwa of Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday rescued himself for personal reasons from hearing a petition moved by former Prime Minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan challenging FIA’s notice in the prohibited funding case.

“I don’t want to hear this case filed by Advocate Intizad Hussain Panjotha for personal reasons,” observed Justice Bajwa at the outset of the hearing. Justice Bajwa sent the case file to the Chief Justice to fix it before any other bench after the counsel representing the PTI Chairman made a plea that direction be given to fix the case for hearing the same day. According to the FIA’s notice, PTI Chairman Imran Khan was due before the agency to explain his position in the foreign funding case.

The PTI’s legal team, however, had challenged the notice before the LHC, submitting that the case was nothing but a political witch hunt.  Imran Khan had made the Ministry of Interior, DG FIA, Deputy Director FIA and the Investigation officer as respondents in the petition. He submitted that the agency sent him notice with an intent of political victimization on Oct 31.

“The FIA’s inquiry regarding PTI Punjab’s bank account is based on bad faith. The probe was initiated to harass the former prime minister,” read the petition, pointing out that the probe was aimed at benefiting the political rivals. It also said, “No one has ever objected to the PTI’s opening party bank accounts. And in the ECP’s (Election Commission of Pakistan) ruling there are no instructions for FIA to investigate [PTI’s] bank accounts”.

The petition said that the ECP neither asked Khan for an explanation nor did it demand any details about his bank accounts. It submitted, “The ECP had only asked Khan to furnish a record of the transaction”, pointing out that the funds from PTI Punjab’s account were spent on party office running costs. The plea also submitted that raising funds was every political party’s constitutional right and apprised the court the interior ministry on August 3 had notified that it was considering putting his name in the exit control list (ECL) through a tweet.

It said, “However, FIA’s Deputy Director and the investigation officer went a step ahead of the interior ministry, launched an investigation and started sending notices for the PTI chairman’s appearance before the inquiry team,”. The petition mentioned that Political Parties Order 2002 prescribed a complete procedure for conducting a prohibited funding trial while the FIA had no jurisdiction to probe into any political party’s prohibited funding.

It asked the court to declare the FIA’s charges against the PTI/leaders in the said case as illegal, order the FIA to withdraw its summons issued to the PTI chairman and direct FIA to freeze its investigation until this petition was adjudicated. The FIA Karachi chapter on Oct 31 had sent notices to the PTI chief at his residences in Islamabad and Lahore, seeking his appearance in the said case.

PTI’s legal team has challenged FIA summons to the party chairman Imran Khan in Lahore High Court (LHC), seeking a clean chit in the case which, it termed was part of the government’s political witch hunt. Khan in his petition disputed the FIA’s notice for his appearance before the agency on November 7 and made the Ministry of Interior, DG FIA, Deputy Director FIA, and the investigation officer party. The petition said FIA sent the notice with the intent of political victimization on October 31.

“The FIA’s inquiry regarding PTI Punjab’s bank account is based on bad faith. The probe was initiated to harass the former prime minister,” the petition said. The inquiry was aimed at benefitting the political rivals, the petition alleged. “No one has ever objected to the PTI’s opening party bank accounts. And in the ECP’s (Election Commission of Pakistan) ruling there are no instructions for FIA to investigate [PTI’s] bank accounts,” the petition read. It further said the ECP neither asked Khan for an explanation nor did it demand any details about his bank accounts. “The ECP had only asked Khan to furnish a record of the transaction.”

Fida Hussnain is a correspondent covering judiciary, politics, business and health issues. He is also a feature writer and researcher with major work on freedom of press in Pakistan. He tweets @fidahassanain and can be reached at fidahassanain@gmail.com.

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