In a major PTI chairman’s legal victory, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended the judgement awarded to former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case.
The IHC ordered the release of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman, who is incarcerated at Attock jail, while announcing a short verdict that it reserved a day earlier.
The court said it would elaborate on the reasons for the suspension of the Judgement in the detailed verdict to be issued later.
The crucial judgment was announced on Khan’s plea challenging his conviction and sentence in the Toshakhana case.
The former prime minister was arrested on August 5 after a district and sessions court in the federal capital found him guilty of corrupt practices linked to the state gift repository and sentenced him to three years in jail.
Subsequently, Khan petitioned the high court against the Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Humayun Dilawar decision to convict him in the Toshakhana case filed by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
After a course of several hearings on the petition, IHC’s division bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri reserved the verdict on Monday.
Before the conclusion of proceedings, the counsel representing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Amjad Pervaiz presented his arguments opposing the pleas by the PTI chief.
The PTI counsel Sardar Latif Khan Khosa had focused on three aspects — suspension of his client’s short sentence, jurisdictional defect and improper authorisation — to defend the plea.
However, the electoral body’s lawyer termed the objections to the maintainability of the ECP’s complaint as baseless during Monday’s hearing.
He claimed that the witnesses presented by the defence were not relevant as these were tax consultants, whereas the complainant accused the ex-PM of submitting a false declaration of assets.
He also objected to the request for suspension of Khan’s sentence, saying this is not a matter of right but the discretion of the court which could be exercised judiciously.
Plea moved to avert Khan’s arrest in any case
Ahead of the Toshakhana verdict, the PTI filed a new plea seeking the court’s directive to stop authorities from arresting Khan in any case.
The plea was filed in the IHC by PTI chief’s lawyer Salman Safdar.
The petition filed in the court to restrict the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau and police from arresting Khan.
What is Toshakhana?
Established in 1974, Toshakhana — a Persian word meaning “treasure house” — is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries as a goodwill gesture.
It has valuables ranging from bulletproof cars, gold-plated souvenirs and expensive paintings to watches, ornaments, rugs and swords.
Under the rules governing Toshakhana, government officials can keep gifts if they have a low worth, while they must pay a dramatically reduced fee to the government for extravagant items.
The Toshakhana has been under a microscope ever since the emergence of the allegations that Khan purchased the gifts he received as prime minister at throwaway rates and sold them off in the open market for staggering profits.
The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his 2018 to 2022 premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than Rs140 million ($635,000).
The gifts included watches given by a royal family, according to government officials, who have alleged previously that Khan’s aides sold them in Dubai.
Moreover, seven wristwatches, six made by watchmaker Rolex, and the most expensive a “Master Graff limited edition” valued at 85 million Pakistani rupees ($385,000), were also among the gifts.
A reference was forwarded by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to the Election Commission asking it to probe the matter.
In October 2022, the electoral body declared the former premier guilty of corrupt practices.
A timeline of Toshakhana case
On October 21, 2022, the ECP maintained that the former prime minister made “false statements and incorrect declarations” about the gifts and disqualified him under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Subsequently, the election watchdog moved a sessions court in the federal capital, seeking criminal proceedings against the PTI chief for allegedly misleading the ECP regarding gifts received from foreign dignitaries while he was in office.
The trial court indicted the PTI chairman on May 10 and rejected his petition to declare the case inadmissible.
On July 4, the IHC overturned the trial court’s ruling and directed it to rehear the petitioner and decide the matter within seven days.
On July 8, ADSJ Dilawar declared the Toshakhana case against Khan as maintainable, which was again challenged in the IHC.
During the trial proceedings, Khan’s lawyers also accused the presiding judge of bias on the basis of his Facebook posts and sought the transfer of the case.
On August 2, the trial court rejected the list of witnesses presented by the PTI chairman, stating that he failed to prove their “relevance” in the criminal proceedings against him. It was also challenged in the high court.
However, the PTI chairman again moved the high court seeking a stay and transfer of the case to another court.
On August 4, IHC Chief Farooq referred the matter back to the trial court with a direction to re-examine the jurisdiction and any procedure lapse in the filing of the complaint by the Election Commission.
On August 5, the trial court found the former prime minister guilty of misdeclaration of state gifts.