The LHC will listen to a petition that challenges the cases against journalist Imran Riaz Khan

On Saturday, which was a public holiday, the Lahore High Court heard a petition that asked for 18 cases against jailed journalist Imran Riaz Khan to be dropped or merged into a single first information report (FIR).

The petition was filed on behalf of Imran Riaz by lawyers Shazib Masud, Mian Ali Ashfaq, Rana Abdul Maruf Khan, and Mian Izhar Ahmed. Justice Ali Baqar Najafi heard the case. has a copy of the petition, which also asked the court to stop “all FIRs until the final decision in this case” and to “direct the respondents to produce the petitioner before this honourable court and release him immediately until the final decision in this petition.”

Respondents in the petition are the Punjab government and the inspector general of police (IGP).

Imran was first taken into custody by Attock police near Islamabad on Tuesday night. He was charged with treason in more than one case. Later, a local court gave him a break in the early hours of Thursday, but a team of Chakwal police arrested him as soon as he left the courtroom.

He was then moved to Lahore. Before that, a local court in the district of Chakwal had given permission for his judicial remand.

On Friday, it was revealed that Lahore police had given the journalist to the Crime Investigation Agency in a case about helping to start a mutiny and criticising government institutions.
The trial

At the start of the hearing, Imran Riaz’s lawyer thanked the court for hearing the petition on a holiday.

At that point, Justice Najafi said, “We have to protect the Constitution because it is our duty.”

After that, the lawyer told the LHC that his client had gone to court the day after a FIR was filed against him.

“But he was arrested at the Islamabad Toll Plaza,” he said. In another plea, he said that the police had kept the LHC from seeing the record of the case in which Imran Riaz was taken into custody.

He said that the police did not tell the court about the FIRs because they wanted to arrest Imran Riaz.

The lawyer said that journalists who disagreed with the current government were being silenced by the government.

Imran Riaz is seen as a pro-PTI journalist, and leaders of the party have praised him by name more than once.
The letter asked

In the petition, it was said that Imran Riaz had “worked hard to provide and deliver information based on quality of truth,” and that by doing so, he had “exposed the illegitimacies and wrongdoings of everyone without any bias toward any ruler or institutions.”

The plea said that he had “always given his opinion based on his completely independent journalistic view on all kinds of topics […] in the larger interest of the public of Pakistan” and “exposed thousands of people and stories without fear.”

It said that the current government was being “vengeful” toward Imran Riaz and other journalists.

In the petition, Imran said that he thought “more bogus cases” had been filed against him by “different unknown persons on the instructions and behest of the incumbent government and with the connivance and collusion of the respondents” in the form of FIRs or complaints.

It said that Imran had sent a letter to the IGP of Punjab on June 30 asking for information about any pending complaints or FIRs against him so that he could ask for an investigation and bail before being arrested.

But because “the Punjab IGP did not cooperate,” the petition said, Imran filed a writ petition with the LHC. The LHC then told the Punjab police chief to hand over a record of cases and complaints against the journalist by July 1.

The Punjab government then turned in a report on the matter, the plea said. But, it said, even though the report showed that 17 FIRs had been filed against Imran, some of the complaints and FIRs had been “deliberately and intentionally” hidden in order to get the journalist arrested “by any means to please the people in the present government on whose orders these bogus FIRs were filed against the petitioner by the respondent no.1 through planted complainants.”

The petition said that Imran then went to the Islamabad High Court to ask for protective or temporary bail, but Attock police arrested him at the Islamabad Toll Plaza at 10:30pm on July 5.

The plea also said that the LHC had been kept in the dark about the case in which Imran was arrested. This was called a “mala fide” act.

The plea said that Imran was then brought before a judge in Attock. It also said that the journalist was then given relief.

The petition also said that the FIRs against Imran were very similar, “so much so” that most of the FIRs had the same content word for word. In this way, the plea said that there couldn’t be a second FIR about the same thing.

“Also, the allegations and offences listed in the FIRs are against the law according to Section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC),” the plea said. “Other offences are not recognised by the law and no set procedure has been followed.”

It said that the FIRs were filed “through planted individuals” when they should have been filed by “authorised representatives/officers empowered on behalf of either of federal or provincial governments—that is, if the complaint was made by order of—or under authority from either of federal or provincial governments, which is completely missing in the above FIRs.”

The petition said that police couldn’t “entertain or decide” on offences related to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, because the Federal Investigation Agency was the designated authority for that job.

The plea said that because of this, the FIRs could be thrown out.

Also, the petition said that Imran was “being dragged from one police station to another police station and then another police station and in the same way facing the proceedings of physical remand/judicial remand.”

“If this fighting goes on, the petitioner’s life will be wasted as he or she goes through the proceedings… of these many FIRs one after the other,” the petition said.

The petition also said that the crimes that were said to have been committed by Imran “do not fit with the way the incident was described in the FIRs, and the accusations are vague.”

In fact, it said, “the Respondent no.1, while acting dishonestly, tried to drag the petitioner unnecessarily and involve him in the said FIRs without any justifiable or substantial basis.”

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