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LHC stops police from arresting PA secretary

CCPO Lahore told to submit complete record as to why police want to arrest Bhatti

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday directed the inspector general of Police (IGP) Punjab to ensure free movement of Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti from court to assembly, and directed the CCPO Lahore to submit complete record of cases or detention orders against him.

Justice Shujaat Ali Khan passed the order on the petition moved by PA Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti against his possible arrest by the police in a case registered against unknown persons for thrashing police officers on the premises of the assembly on election day of Punjab chief minister on April 16.

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During the proceedings, Advocate Amir Saeed Rawn, who is representing the PTI, PML-Q leaders and PA Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti, informed the court that Punjab Assembly Deputy Secretary Coordination was arrested by the police when he was on his way to the court to submit a record related to the petition of IGP challenging a privilege motion against him.

“There is police on every gate of the court to arrest Muhammad Khan Bhatti—the PA secretary,” said the lawyer, pointing out that there existed strong apprehension that Bhatti would be arrested.

At this, Justice Khan directed the IGP not to arrest Muhammad Khan Bhatti and ensure his free movement from court to the assembly. The court also directed the registrar office to inform the IGP about the court orders and adjourned the hearing till May 6.

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The PA secretary also filed a protective bail in the Lahore High Court but the registrar office objected to it, saying that the required documents were missing. However, Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem overruled the objection and directed the registrar office to fix it for hearing in the court.

Earlier in the day, Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti narrowly escaped arrest by the police as he stepped out of the Lahore High Court’s GPO gate along with his lawyers.

The issue started after a privilege motion as well as a letter was issued by the Punjab Assembly secretariat against the IGP and he decided to challenge it in court.

Justice Shujaat Ali Khan had issued the instructions while hearing a petition filed by the IGP against a letter issued by the assembly secretariat, seeking his explanation.

In the letter, the IGP sought explanation that on whose orders police had entered the Punjab Assembly premises and who had filed the complaint to book the lawmakers.

The motion stated that following violent incidents that took place on April 16, the dignity and sanctity of the assembly had been violated as a result of illegal actions of Punjab Police. The letter also sought a list of police officials with their names, designation, credentials and other information.

The plea for deployment of troops at the assembly was also summoned.

The IGP had earlier submitted in the court that he had received a letter on April 15 from the then acting speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari who had asked him to provide security staff to avoid any untoward incident on April 16. He also told the court that it was also the order of the court to ensure security on the premises of the assembly.

The IGP said he also received another letter seeking deployment of requisite security forces on the assembly premises. He submitted that he complied with Mazari’s request and did his duty while following the court orders.

The Punjab Police chief also said that it was Muhammad Khan Bhatti who had accused him of violating sanctity of the assembly by deploying security officials there. He contended that the deputy speaker had later quashed the letter of the PA secretary.

He submitted that Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had been threatening to sentence him for three months and information was reported by the media that day.

He asked the court to set aside the letter by declaring it illegal.

Advocate Azhar Siddique, the counsel of PA Secretary, contended that the letter had been issued on the recommendation of the assembly’s privilege committee and the petitioner was bound to give the information sought in it.

He contended that the PTI and the PML-Q lawmakers were thrashed by the police officials, pointing out that the petitioner had acted beyond his domain.

Azhar submitted that assistance of any law enforcement agency could only be sought by the sergeant at arms of the assembly or the PA secretary. He told the court that the then presiding officer addressing the letter to the petitioner spoke volumes about his ‘mala fide’ conduct.

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