KARACHI: After the Islamabad High Court (IHC) decided to indict PTI Chairman Imran Khan in contempt of court proceedings, a debate began over the repercussions for Mr Khan’s political future and the way out for him from the legal cul de sac he finds himself in.
Speaking to SAMAA TV, former Attorney General Irfan Qadir called the case “a battle between Mr Khan’s ego and law”.
Referring to a 2013 case, in which Mr Khan was warned for committing contempt of court, Mr Qadir said it was written in the verdict that he will not use those words again.
“That’s why the court gave him two weeks’ time. Otherwise, [Mr Khan] would have been indicted after day-to-day hearings,” he said.
Legal expert Salman Akram Raja echoed similar sentiments, saying that the court was expecting Mr Khan to tender an “unconditional apology”.
“The court had explained that in its view, Mr Khan’s remarks about Judge Zeba Chaudhry was prima facie contempt of court and it was criminal contempt of court,” said Mr Raja.
Talking to ARY News, PPP leader and eminent lawyer Latif Khosa said Mr Khan should have “surrendered, expressed remorse and taken back his words”.
“He should have apologised. He should have let go of his ego. The country is drowning, not only in floods, but also economically,” he said, adding that dragging the case further is tantamount to pushing the country towards “commotion, chaos and confusion”.
Lawyer Abdul Moiz Jaferii said that the court has shown “unprecedented leniency” in the case and Mr Khan has been abusing it.
“[Mr Khan kept] making the situation more embarrassing for the court which was caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Mr Jaferii on DawnNews.
He added the court had no option but to take notice of Mr Khan’s remarks as he was “threatening a female judge.”
Lawyer Mirza Moiz Baig told Dawn.com that the judges adjudicating the case were in an unenviable position given that a decision against the PTI chief might trigger a strong reaction from a certain segment, but condoning threatening language against judges hearing politically sensitive cases might affect the judiciary’s morale.
Experts noted that in light of past precedents, the court couldn’t let the PTI chairman off the hook sans an unconditional apology.
Mr Qadir said many people have apologised, including PML-N leaders Nehal Hashmi, Talal Chaudhry and Danial Aziz, but their apologies were not accepted.
Mr Raja added that in the past, apologies weren’t accepted after indictment and the courts said had that such apologies were out of fear and not a result of remorse.
“In contempt cases there are mixed precedents. There are cases where apologies were accepted, and where they were rejected. It is the court’s discretion and it sees the sincerity of the defendant,” Mr Raja explained.
Mr Jaferii noted that the PML-N leaders were disqualified even after they had submitted written apologies, and Mr Hashmi was even sent to prison.
“In light of these precedents if [Mr Khan] had apologised, the case would have been over,” said Mr Jaferii.
What now for Mr Khan?
Legal experts are unanimous in their opinion that the only recourse for Mr Khan is to submit an unconditional apology.
Talking to Dawn.com, Mr Jaferii said once the defendant is put on notice, “the only wiggle room is if you tender an unconditional apology and surrender to the court, and leave yourself at its mercy.”
“Mr Khan is being offered free advice on TV and by lawyers to apologise as he has committed a blunder,” Mr Jaferii said.
Mr Raja expressed hope that from this date till Sept 22 — when Mr Khan will appear in the court for indictment — “Mr Khan apologises to the judge, expresses remorse over his remark and then tender an apology to the court.”
Barrister Asad Rahim told Dawn.com that linking Mr Khan’s statement to cases like Nehal Hashmi or Talal Chaudhry was to be making unwarranted comparisons.
However, he added that the onus remained on Mr Khan to tender an unconditional apology, and put an end to this chapter.