Court acquits Imran Khan and PTI leaders in 2022 Azadi March cases

On Monday, a local court acquitted former prime minister Imran Khan and several Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders of charges related to alleged violence and riots during the May 25, 2022, Azadi March. This decision comes nearly two years after the cases were initially filed.

The verdict, delivered by judicial magistrates Mureed Abbas and Shahzad Khan, cleared Imran Khan along with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Qasim Suri, Zartaj Gul, Ali Nawaz Awan, Faisal Javed, Shireen Mazari, Saifullah Niazi, Asad Umar, and Awami Muslim League chairman Sheikh Rashid. The cases were registered at Karachi Company and Kohsar police stations in 2022.

The Karachi Company police had charged the PTI leaders under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, including 109 (abetment), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing public service), 188 (disobedience), 353 (assault on public servant), 427 (causing damage), and 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage). Similarly, an FIR filed at the Kohsar police station accused Khan, Qureshi, Rashid, Awan, and Suri of similar offenses, based on a complaint from Sub-Inspector Asif Raza.

During the court proceedings, PTI’s legal counsel Naeem Panjotha argued that the cases were baseless and politically motivated. Panjotha contended that the FIR was filed by an unauthorised person and lacked substantial evidence, including video proof, to support the allegations. He emphasised that the protests were peaceful and suggested that any fires were caused by police actions, not the demonstrators.

Khan’s Haqeeqi Azadi (real freedom) march on May 25, 2022, was met with significant resistance from authorities who invoked Section 144, banning public gatherings. Despite the imposition of Section 144 and the placement of shipping containers to block major routes, the marchers attempted to reach Islamabad, facing tear gas and baton charges from police.

The defense requested that the court honourably acquit Khan and the other accused, arguing that the charges were unsubstantiated and politically driven. After considering the arguments, the magistrates acquitted all the accused, providing a significant legal victory for the PTI.

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