August 17, 2023
ISLAMABAD – The Islamabad High Court will take up an appeal filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan — currently incarcerated in Attock Jail — against his conviction and sentence in the Toshakhana case on August 22 next week.
A division bench, comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, will take up the hearing.
On August 5, a trial court in Islamabad found the PTI chief guilty of “corrupt practices” and sentenced him to three years in prison in the case. The verdict means that he also stood disqualified Imran from contesting general elections.
“He [Imran] cheated while providing information about gifts he obtained from Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate. His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” the 30-page court order issued at the time stated.
The police, already on standby in anticipation of a verdict in the hearing, had swung into action minutes after Additional District and Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar announced the judgment and arrested Imran from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
Subsequently, the PTI chairman had approached the IHC through his counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed and Barrister Gohar Ali Khan against his conviction, urging the IHC to also suspend his imprisonment sentence till a final verdict on his appeal.
According to the appeal, the PTI chairman was about to challenge the court order on the maintainability of the Toshakhana case in the Supreme Court, but the trial court judge had fixed the case for final arguments on August 5.
It explained that his counsel was unable to rebut the final arguments of the ECP lawyer, as the former was preparing for filing the challenge and moved another application for transfer of the matter to another court.
The petition stated that the trial court convicted Imran with a “pre-disposed mind”, and sentenced him to three years imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000.
However, at the previous hearing, Justice Farooq made it clear that he would decide on the petition after hearing the officials concerned and issued notices to the respondents.
The case, filed by lawmakers of the then coalition government, was based on a criminal complaint filed by the ECP.
The case alleged that Imran had “deliberately concealed” details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana — a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept — during his time as the prime minister and proceeds from their reported sales.
According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
Imran has faced a number of legal issues over his retention of gifts. The issue also led to his disqualification by the ECP.
On Oct 21, 2022, the ECP concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.
The watchdog’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Subsequently, the ECP had approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the complaint, seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.
On May 10, Imran was indicted in the case. However, on July 4, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had stayed the proceeding and directed ADSJ Dilawar to re-examine the matter in seven days, keeping in view eight legal questions he framed to decide the maintainability of the Toshakhana reference.
The questions had included whether the complaint was filed on behalf of the ECP by a duly authorised person, whether the ECP’s decision of Oct 21, 2022, was a valid authorisation to any officer of ECP to file a complaint, and whether the question of authorisation was a question of fact and evidence and could be ratified subsequently during the course of proceedings.
Finally, on July 9, ADSJ Dilawar while ruling that the reference was maintainable, revived the stalled proceedings and summoned the witnesses for testimony.
A session court had last month declared that the ECP reference against the PTI chief was maintainable. The decision was subsequently challenged in the IHC.
Last week, Judge Dilawar had ruled that Imran’s legal team failed to prove the relevance of his witnesses. He had warned the defence counsel to conclude the arguments, or else the court would reserve an order.
On August 3, the IHC gave a short breather to Imran, asking the judge to re-examine the jurisdiction and any procedure lapse in the filing of the complaint by the ECP. However, a day later, the trial court convicted the ex-premier.