ISLAMABAD - An anti-terrorism court yesterday rejected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s plea to remove terror charges against him and send his cases to a lower court.

ATC Judge Shahrukh Arjmand took up Imran’s plea in four cases registered against him on the charges of attack on the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) building and the Parliament, and violence on SSP Asmatullah Junejo during the 2014 sit-in staged by his party.

The PTI chief prayed to the court that terrorism-related clauses may be scrapped and case may be sent to the sessions court as protesting for the sake of one's rights was not terrorism.

During the hearing, the prosecution adopted that during that the 2014 protest, Imran had incited violence and urged his supporters to attack police officials and state buildings in his speeches.

However, his lawyer Babar Awan argued that PTI chief had repeatedly told his followers to exercise restraint and refrain from harming other people.

“You brought people to the capital, told them to attack buildings and then shrugged off responsibility by saying that you were not present at the time of the attack,” the state lawyer responded.

Awan contended that if cases were registered against people for giving speeches, the Sharif family would have been nominated in around 200 cases since the Supreme Court announced the Panamagate verdict.

The prosecutor alleged that the PTI supporters had injured 26 police officials and had gone on to attack the PTV offices - acts that qualify as acts of terrorism.

“According to the Anti-Terrorism Act, these acts are non-bailable and punishable,” maintained the prosecutor.

The prosecution also accused Imran Khan of disrespecting the court by failing to appear for case hearings for more than three years, despite being in Islamabad.

The prosecuting lawyer also referred to an alleged phone conversation between Imran and PTI leader Arif Alvi in which the party chief appears to be happy about the attacks on the PTV headquarters.

The PTI had claimed the tape was doctored.

However, in Monday’s hearing, Awan accused the government of recording his client’s phone calls.

Awan also demanded a copy of the tape so that the party could verify its authenticity.

The judge reserved the decision after hearing the arguments of both the sides.

Later, the court announced the verdict of dismissing the plea to remove terror charges but extended Imran’s bail in the cases till the next hearing to be held on December 19.

Imran’s reaction

Talking to the reporters after appearing in the court, Imran Khan accused the government of engaging in politics of vendetta by filing cases against him.

“They filed cases against me in the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Supreme Court and in the ATCs, in a bid to silence me,” he said.

“They just want to prove their claim that, ‘If we are thieves, the rest of the people are thieves too’,” Khan said. But they (PML-N government) have failed to provide any proof against me, he added.

PTI chairman also came down hard on the Punjab government and held it responsible for the Model Town tragedy.

He said, “There is no precedent of such incidents in a democracy. The protesters were innocent and they [government] killed 14 innocent people using police.”

To a question, Imran turned down any possibility of political alliance with the Pakistan People’s Party.

The PTI chairman said that he could not form an alliance with the PPP in the presence of its “corrupt” leader Asif Ali Zardari.

He added, “If my struggle was to get power, I could have made alliances with Nawaz and the PPP [in the past]. [But] how can I be with Zardari when my fight is against corruption.”