Balochistan High Court suspends Imran Khan’s arrest warrants in hate speech case

In a recent development, the Balochistan High Court (BHC) has suspended non-bailable arrest warrants that were issued for PTI chairman Imran Khan by a Quetta judicial magistrate. The case is related to Imran Khan’s alleged hate speech against state institutions and officers.

The arrest warrants were issued on Thursday by the court of Judicial Magistrate-1 Bashir Ahmed Bazai, based on a first information report (FIR) registered against Imran Khan at Quetta’s Bijli Road police station. The police were instructed to arrest the PTI chief and present him in court.

However, the PTI approached the Balochistan High Court (BHC) early Friday morning, seeking the cancellation of Imran’s warrants and the quashing of the FIR lodged against him. Justice Zaheer-Ud-Din Kakar conducted the hearing and suspended the arrest warrants for two weeks after listening to arguments from the petitioner’s lawyer.

The PTI argued in its petition that the case registered against Imran at Quetta’s Bijli Road police station was not valid since the alleged offence did not fall under its jurisdiction. The party claimed that actions taken by the Balochistan police were “illegal [and] unlawful” and that there was “no other efficacious, speedy, and alternate remedy available to the petitioner except to file the instant quashing petition” for redressal of his grievance.

The FIR against Imran Khan was lodged on March 6 at the Bijli Road police station in Quetta by citizen Abdul Khalil Kakar. In the FIR, Kakar alleged that Imran addressed the public from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore on March 5, in which he levelled “baseless allegations against the state institutions”. He claimed that the ex-premier’s statement was tantamount to “destroying public peace and order” and that Imran had harmed the credibility of the institutions.

The complaint invoked several sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, including sedition, giving provocation with intent to cause a riot, and making statements conducing to public mischief. It also included a section of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.

The BHC’s decision to suspend the arrest warrants has brought temporary relief to Imran Khan and the PTI. The hearing has been adjourned for two weeks, and notices have been issued to the Quetta inspector general of police, director investigation, senior superintendent (legal), the station house officer, and the complainant.

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