Islamabad, Pakistan – Hundreds of supporters of Pakistan’s ruling alliance are holding a sit-in protest outside Pakistan’s Supreme Court to protest against alleged “undue favours” shown by the judiciary towards former Prime Minister Imran Khan in recent days.
Monday’s protest was mainly led by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) party – one of the 13 members of Pakistan’s ruling coalition, the Pakistan Democratic Movement.
Photos and videos shared on social media showed JUI-F supporters, dressed in yellow, forming a chain and setting camps outside the top court’s building in Islamabad.
Government supporters also broke through the main entrance of the capital’s high-security Red Zone which houses prominent state offices, including the parliament.
Inside the parliament, the ruling alliance on Monday passed a resolution against Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial on charges of “misconduct”.
The rare passage of a resolution against the top judge in parliament and protests by pro-government supporters outside follow accusations by Pakistan’s ruling parties that the country’s judiciary is “biased” towards Khan, their main political opponent.
While tensions between the government and the judiciary began earlier this year over holding provincial elections, they have intensified since May 9 when the Supreme Court declared Khan’s dramatic arrest in a corruption case “illegal”, clearing the way for his two-week bail and eventual release on May 12.
The 70-year-old chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was also granted protection from further arrest until later this month.
On Monday, another court in the eastern city of Lahore granted bail to Khan’s wife until May 23 in the same case in which the PTI chief was arrested.
Bushra Bibi is a co-accused along with her husband in the Al-Qadir Trust case. The couple is accused of receiving financial help from a land developer to establish a university in which they are trustees.
‘Double standards of justice’
Chairing a cabinet meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said while other politicians faced trials and tough handling by the courts, Khan was given a “privileged treatment”, calling it a “death of justice”.
“When he was presented in court yesterday [May 11], the chief justice said it is good to see you. He said this in a case of corruption. If you want to keep favouring this laadla [pampered in Urdu], then you should also release all the dacoits behind bars in the country. Let this be a free for all,” Sharif said.
“These are the double standards of justice,” he added.
On Sunday, federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb told Al Jazeera Khan was “invited” to the court for a hearing and not summoned.
“[When] we were jailed on false cases, our hearing was never heard in the court for a year, for eight months, for six months but Mr Khan did not go to the court, Mr Khan was invited to the court in a Mercedes Benz,” she said.
“When Mr Khan went there … the Supreme Court gave him bail and said it was really happy to see him and then wished him good luck.”
Aurangzeb said the Islamabad High Court, which granted the two-week bail to Khan on Friday, was “under the influence of the Supreme Court”.
“He [Khan] can’t be arrested in any other case in any new investigation, the existing cases are all shut down or given bails. Where does this happen,” she told Al Jazeera.
Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and niece of Prime Minister Sharif, said Chief Justice Bandial was the “most responsible” for the deadly riots that broke out after Khan’s arrest.
“You should leave the post of the chief justice and join [Khan’s party],” she tweeted last week.
So without any investigation into who was responsible for arson on government building or dozens of deaths of unarmed protesters by bullet wounds , around 7000 PTI workers , leadership and our women have been jailed with plans to ban the largest and only federal party in Pak .… pic.twitter.com/7p8uiPaYhc
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) May 15, 2023
In the many rallies that Khan has held to demand early elections since his removal from power more than a year ago, he has lauded the Supreme Court and called Bandial his “only hope” for saving the country’s constitution.
Bandial’s tenure as chief justice ends in September this year.
Reza Ali, a constitutional expert, said it was not clear what the ruling alliance was trying to achieve by attacking the top court.
“If they think it will force the chief justice to take a step back, I don’t think it will happen. Instead, it will have an opposite impact. This might end up uniting the court and all the polarisation that we hear about in the ranks [of the judiciary], it may entirely end,” he told Al Jazeera.