On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the arrest of Imran Khan, Chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), as “illegal”, shortly after his arrival at the Supreme Court. This followed an order by a three-judge panel for the authorities to present him before the court.

The three-judge panel, which included Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah, along with the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), heard the former prime minister’s appeal against his arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case. They deemed Imran Khan’s arrest by Rangers within the courtroom as “illegal” and instructed his immediate release.

The court directed the PTI leader to present himself before the Islamabad High Court the following day.

Earlier, the court had directed the National Accountability Bureau and Islamabad Inspector General of Police to bring Imran Khan before the court within 30 minutes, implying a 4:30 PM presentation. However, the police cited security preparations as the cause of his delayed appearance before the Supreme Court.

Imran Khan’s legal team, led by Hamid Khan, appeared before the court in the morning. Hamid Khan contended that Imran Khan had come to the Islamabad High Court for bail but was arrested on the court grounds.

Hamid Khan further stated that his client was arrested by personnel who broke into the room where he was undergoing biometrics.

The Chief Justice, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, questioned the legality of arresting someone from court premises, pointing out that people come to courts seeking justice. He also questioned the large number of personnel involved in the arrest. Salman Safdar, responding, said 80 to 100 Rangers personnel entered the court premises for the arrest.

The Chief Justice expressed concern over the impact such actions have on the court’s prestige. He referred to past contempt of court proceedings carried out over court vandalism and insisted that future arrests within the court premises should require permission from the Registrar of Islamabad High Court.

He critiqued the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for tarnishing the judiciary’s reputation by arresting Imran Khan on court premises. He noted that the NAB had committed similar actions in the past, and despite subsequent apologies and assurances that such actions would not be repeated, they had occurred again.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial emphasized the need for everyone to feel safe on court premises and pledged to uphold the court’s prestige, declaring that contempt of court will not be tolerated.

Justice Athar Minallah criticized the NAB for its history of disrespectful arrests of elected representatives.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar questioned Imran Khan’s lawyer about the PTI chief’s non-compliance with NAB’s inquiry, suggesting that Khan had not respected NAB notices.

NAB Prosecutor General Asghar Haider, when summoned, was questioned about the execution of the warrant but admitted his unawareness of the matter, promising to update the court later.

The PTI had previously filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Islamabad High Court’s decision to consider Imran Khan’s arrest by the NAB as “legal”. Imran Khan, calling the judgment flawed, termed the NAB-issued arrest warrants as ‘illegal’ and claimed he wasn’t notified about the inquiry’s transformation into an investigation.

Imran Khan was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the Al-Qadir Trust case on Tuesday. Acting on the NAB’s warrant, Rangers personnel took the PTI chief into custody from the Islamabad High Court premises, where he had gone to seek bail in multiple cases registered against him.